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We Will Proclaim

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Leading the Alliance family as her twelfth president has been a listening journey for me. I’ve tried to keep a listening posture to the leading of the Holy Spirit. I’ve opened the Bible on a consistent basis with a heart and mind hungry to listen to and be shaped by divine revelation. I’ve traveled extensively in order to be in the presence of the Alliance family with a listening ear to what the Spirit is saying to us as a community.

In this process, I began to describe The Alliance as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family. Next, I began to pray: “Father, since The Alliance is a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, what are You calling us to do?” It was in that listening journey that I felt the Lord give us an assignment—a short list of priorities that have provided the direction for my role as president. These priorities can be described in four simple words: Love, Proclaim, Reach, Launch.

I prayed over them in private. I wrestled with them among gatherings of trusted Alliance leaders. And then I did it all again—more prayer, more conversations . . . more wrestling. Next, I shared them at Council 2015 in Long Beach. Now, through various means of communication, including four consecutive issues of Alliance Life, these themes are being unpacked.

Love. Proclaim. Reach. Launch. The words are simple enough to be grasped in a moment but are significant enough to spend a lifetime exploring. I confess that I’ve feared the Alliance family may be tempted to move past them too quickly, not sensing their depth. Hence, articles such as this are presented to lead us forward into a fuller expression of the priorities set before us at this moment in Alliance history. This issue’s theme is Proclaim.

The Gospel Is Ours to Share

I hear passion, and perhaps even joy, in Paul’s tone as he declares: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The good news—God sent His Son into our world to offer incredible gifts to us—is the beautiful message we are privileged to share. These gifts include such life-changing provisions as redemption, grace, freedom, and forgiveness.

Perhaps we’ve grown accustomed to the power of these gifts. I pray that God will once again open our eyes to the richness of His provision and the wonder of salvation. Stories like the following help me not to take for granted what is ours through the gospel.

Recently, one of our international team members working in a religiously oppressive society hosted a clandestine Bible study for women in her sphere of influence. Around a single copy of the Scriptures, a small group—fully garbed in black burqas—quietly and secretly assembled. With great attentiveness they listened to the gospel. These were words and concepts they had never heard.

One of the listeners interrupted the presentation. “Excuse me. I don’t mean to embarrass you, but you are still learning Arabic and probably don’t realize what you just said. You just told us that we could be forgiven of everything that we’ve ever done. Certainly you didn’t mean that. That’s impossible.”

Our worker quickly and joyfully responded, “No. That’s exactly what I intended to say. That’s what Jesus came to do. He fully forgives us as we come to Him, giving us new life.”

The questioning woman lives in a culture that understands revenge well, but forgiveness—especially from God to us—is a foreign concept.

May we, as the Alliance family, become joyfully reacquainted with the gospel. May words that can feel like dusty terms from a dry theology book spring to new life among us. We’ve been justified, redeemed, reconciled, and forgiven!

Once again, hear the passion of Paul as he describes the impact of the gospel in our lives: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures . . . But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:3–5a).

Interweaving Action and Word

Not only do I pray that the Alliance family will delight again in the wealth of the gospel but also that as we do, we share it well.

Some among us need to learn to speak the word verbally. Ben Stewart, leader of Envision (an Alliance ministry partnering to move people and shape culture), recently commented to me, “Our generation has lost the ability to articulate faith.” Millennials aren’t alone in this. Many of us need to discover or rediscover our voice. We—as redeemed, Holy Spirit–indwelt followers of Jesus—have a message to speak. We carry the gospel the world needs to hear. Yet, too many of us have become reticent. As our culture has progressed toward post-modernity with its denial of truth, we’ve floundered in speaking of the One who declared Himself to be the way, the truth, and the life.

Others among us need to learn to speak the Word with our actions. The gospel is more powerfully spoken when verbal proclamation is surrounded by life demonstration.

It’s my conviction that for too many years, Alliance family members huddled in our buildings while investing little in our communities. I rejoice that as I travel, I see many examples of Alliance churches that continue to hold great church services while providing impactful service to their neighborhoods and cities. More Alliance congregations are finding ways to not only share the gospel (verbally) but also to show the gospel (tangibly.) Immigration services, free medical clinics, Renew the City work efforts, partnering with under-resourced schools, after-school tutoring, food pantries, ESL classes, and many other examples give clear evidence that the gospel is increasingly being lived among us.

Those of us who overreacted in decades past—fearing the “social gospel”—are now seeing that Matthew 25 is for the evangelical church as well. In this passage Jesus reveals that He so closely identifies with those in need that when we assist the hungry, thirsty, immigrant, under-resourced, imprisoned, or infirm among us, we are actually ministering to Him.

And, as we serve Jesus in this manner, the watching world takes notice that the gospel is being lived out among us.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a scientist who clearly stated that she wasn’t a person of faith. For her meditation, she liked to sit by a rock formation and reflect upon herself. She didn’t see a need for God or have any desire to go to church. However, she confessed that she was mystified that whenever there is a disaster, she saw that it is usually evangelical Christians who are the most-involved responders.

Current M***** refugees are saying this as well. I’ve repeatedly heard comments such as, “In our flight to safety, our own people were of no help to us. Sometimes they were even shooting at us. But it is the Christians who have received us and provided for us.”

There is much more that will be shared with the Alliance family on this theme over the course of time. But for today, let’s receive this word. We’ve been entrusted with the gospel. This gospel is to be shared. Our sharing will be most effective as it is interwoven with verbal and tangible expressions. He will lead us how to do so as we listen to Him.

A Walk Interrupted

On a rare, relaxing morning at home, I’ll sometimes strap on my backpack and walk to my favorite grocery store to pick up a few items. Rather than following heavily trafficked roads, I like to take the long routes that lead me through parks and neighborhoods.

Last November, I needed a few items for the chai tea I make for myself, and the morning’s fall sunshine beckoned me to grab my tennis shoes rather than my car keys. I found a new route that curved its way through a couple of quiet neighborhoods. A mile into my trek, I passed a man gathering leaves in his small front yard. A lone tree had dropped enough foliage to fill nearly a dozen large bags. I greeted him as I passed, and he waved in response.

A few feet up the sidewalk, I felt the prodding of the Spirit: You should stop and help him.

Ah, I complained. That would be awkward. I’m a total stranger. A few steps further, I relented and did a pedestrian U-turn.

The industrious man was bent over, filling yet another bag. “That’s the hardest part of the job,” I commented. “Let me give you a hand.”

He was surprised but appreciative, and side-by-side we began to stuff leaves into gaping plastic mouths. His story came out as quickly as the bags were being filled. He and his wife both had jobs, he explained as it became obvious that English was his second language. Their 20-month-old daughter was ill with a fever. His wife couldn’t get out of her job for the day, so he stayed home. While the toddler was sleeping, he had slipped out to clean up his front yard. In passing, he mentioned that English was his wife’s first language.

“Hey, you should come to the church I attend,” I invited. “The services are in Spanish and English. You and your wife would be very welcome. There is ministry for the children as well.”

His response suddenly revealed why I had been prompted to talk to him. “Just last night I was talking to my wife about church. Neither of us have attended anywhere in years.”

On the comfortable conversation went. The bags filled as did my heart. Soon we were done. He welcomed my offer to pray for his daughter and happily received our church information.

I re-hoisted my backpack and resumed my walk. “Okay,” I prayed. “You’re right again.”

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